What are Permitting and Inspection?

Solar permitting and inspection refer to two processes that need to happen before a solar array can receive permission to interconnect to the grid and start producing electricity. Generally, local governments require a homeowner's solar installer/contractor to obtain a permit for rooftop panels before they can be installed. After the PV system is installed, a professional from the local government will inspect the new array to ensure all building, electrical, and safety codes have been followed. The utility will then approve the interconnection of the system to the grid and it can begin generating power.

Local governments have different laws and regulations pertaining to permitting and inspection processes, so the detailed steps and permitting fees can vary across jurisdictions, which can increase the non-hardware costs, or soft costs, of a solar installation. Learn more about solar soft costs.

Why are Permitting and Inspection Important?

Permitting and inspection processes ensure that a building is safe for solar and that the solar array is installed correctly and safely. Improving these processes can reduce solar soft costs by reducing the time and labor it takes for a solar installer/contractor to fill out and submit the forms and for a local government to process them. Errors in applications, a backlog of solar permit applications in the queue, or out-of-date building, fire, and electrical codes can delay permits and increase the soft costs of solar. Soft costs still amount to roughly two-thirds of total residential system costs and need to fall an additional 60-70 percent to achieve the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office’s (SETO) 2030 cost targets. Learn more about SETO’s goals.

SETO Research in Permitting and Inspection

SETO funds projects that work toward reducing the costs and administrative burdens associated with permitting for solar, as well as compliance with local codes, rules, and regulations. Projects are tackling these solar market barriers by developing solutions that decrease the red tape associated with installing solar. SETO funds projects that are tackling permitting and inspection:

  • SolarAPP+ – this web-based platform automates solar permitting for local governments and other authorities having jurisdiction.
  • SolSmart – this program supports and recognizes local governments that reduce soft costs and expand access to solar energy.

Search the Solar Energy Research Database to find individual projects in solar permitting and inspection.

Learn more about soft costs research, other solar energy research in SETO, and view current and former funding programs.